The remarks of the medieval canonists on the subject of mercy provide much to reflect upon when considering the relationship between justice and public opinion – an issue which continues to be of topical interest today. The debate was oriented around the concept of scandal, exploring the dynamics of public approval when it came to the activities of public institutions. Specifically, it focused on how social reactions could affect sentencing, with particular regard to the effects resulting from a show of mercy. The need to prevent demonstrations of dissent or protest led canonists to believe that the judge could mitigate the rigor of the law at times – even going so far as to forgive an offender – in order to meet public demands. Civil-law
jurists developed similar solutions which worked the other way around: drawing on canonical principles, they admitted the possibility of condemning an innocent person in order to prevent scandals from erupting within society.


Keywords: justice; public opinion; mercy; scandal.